Federal Judge Orders Bond Hearings for Asylum Seekers

LOS ANGELES (CN) – Thousands of asylum seekers currently detained after entering the United States seeking protections must be given a bond hearing within seven days of requesting one or be released from detention, a federal judge in Seattle ordered Friday.

Asylum seekers are often kept in custody for weeks or months without access to transcripts or written decisions in their case or a notice as to whether they bear the burden of proof in bond proceedings.

Advocates for asylum seekers have described the practice as part of an effort by the Trump administration to obstruct or deter individuals from seeking asylum protections in the U.S.

Immigrants hoping asylum applications will be processed (Felix Marquez/AP Photo)

Before heading to Calexico, California, on Friday to promote security along the U.S. border with Mexico, President Donald Trump told reporters that Congress should scrap the entire asylum process and remove federal judges who have upheld protections for asylum seekers and other immigrants.

Advocates filed a federal class action lawsuit against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in June 2018 on behalf of individuals seeking asylum protections, including lead plaintiff Yolany Padilla, a Honduran national seeking asylum protection for herself and her son.

U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman issued a ruling in December 2018 denying the Trump administration’s attempt to dismiss the case on jurisdictional grounds and, in March 2019, certified two nationwide classes of individuals seeking credible fear interviews and fair bond hearings.

In a 19-page order issued Friday, Pechman ordered the government to grant asylum seekers who have credible asylum claims a fair and speedy bond hearing, record the hearing and give asylum seekers a written decision at the conclusion of the hearing.

Pechman wrote in the order that asylum seekers are forced, under the current process, to choose between an unknown period of detention and face unfair bond hearings with “procedural deficiencies” or relinquish their asylum claim and face possible deportation.

“The Constitution does not require these Plaintiffs to endure such a no-win scenario,” the order said.

The government has 30 days to implement the changes mandated by the order.

A spokesperson for ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The plaintiffs and nationwide classes of asylum seekers are represented by the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and the American Immigration Council.

Matt Adams, legal director for Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, said in a statement Friday that the ruling asserts protections that “are essential in order to ensure that detention is not used as punishment or a mechanism to block asylum applicants from asserting their rights to seek protection.”

The statement added that Pechman’s ruling, which shifts the burden of justifying continued detention to the government, is the first nationwide ruling to do so. Asylum seekers are often forced to prove to a judge that they pose no threat to the nation.

Trina Realmuto, an attorney at the American Immigration Council, said in the same statement that the ruling acknowledges the physical and psychological toll asylum seekers face while navigating the complex legal web of the asylum process.

“The court’s decision recognizes the physical and psychological suffering that asylum seekers have been forced to endure for weeks and months as they await bond hearings,” said Realmuto. “We are thrilled that under the court’s order, our class members will receive prompt bond hearings with basic due process protections.”

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